A passion for teaching and research

An interview with Professor Teresa Martinez del Campo

The greatest success that you can have is working on something you really love.

– Professor Teresa Martinez del Campo

Teresa Martínez del Campo - blog image | Elsevier

Teresa Martinez del Campo is an associate professor in the Organic Chemistry Department of the Complutense University of Madrid. She completed her PhD in Madrid in 2009 and moved to the University of Oxford to do post-doctoral research there. She was a finalist of the very first edition of the Reaxys PhD Prize in 2010, receiving recognition for the high quality and rigorousness of her work. After completing her stay at the University of Oxford, she returned to Spain to take a position at the Institute of General Organic Chemistry (CSIC). She then applied to an assistant professorship at the Complutense University of Madrid, which she held for 5 years before being promoted to her current role.

We met with Professor del Campo to discuss her career and hear her advice for those interested in a career in chemistry.

What are your main duties as an associate professor?

My main tasks are teaching and research. My teaching responsibilities with undergraduates and postgraduates cover all areas in organic chemistry. Research-wise, I’m currently looking at new allene-based catalytic processes based for synthesizing fluorine-incorporating products of biological interest.

Do you feel that an academic research position spares you from having to deal with the "first to market" pressure of an industry position?

I believe that academic research is equally as competitive as being in the private sector—and sometimes even more competitive! We’re just as focused on performing research at a high level, there’s considerable competition for funding. It’s by no means a low-pressure research environment.

Do you feel that PhD graduates are prepared for an industry career?

I certainly believe they can succeed in industry. Completing a PhD in chemistry teaches people how to work hard, maintain creative thinking and perform excellent research. What’s more, there’s a lot of project management and even leadership skill in PhD research. All that experience would be an asset to a private company.

How do you feel about being called a successful woman in STEM?

I consider myself hard-working first and foremost; and fortunate to work in an area that I’m passionate about. The greatest success that you can have is working on something you really love.

What advice would you give to a woman starting out in chemistry as an undergrad?

Although there are years of hard work, effort and sacrifice on a personal level ahead of you, the result makes up for everything. There is nothing more beautiful than being able to teach other people.

Coming up through your undergrad and post-grad, did you feel that there was any bias against women who were studying chemistry?

I’m very fortunate: I have never experienced any kind of contempt for women in the world of chemistry. In fact, I have always had many more female colleagues than male, both in my time as an undergraduate student and during my PhD. But I’m aware that women do experience bias in STEM, including chemistry.

A passion for teaching and research

What should academic institutions and industry be doing to create a fairer system in STEM?

I think that there is still much to be done in that sense. When a woman in the research world decides to become a mother, she knows that this will be a break in her career because she will be away from her research—at the very least, during her maternity leave, but often longer than that. We still live in a society with an uneven expectation on women to devote time to childcare. This needs to be recognized and compensated for with more support from institutions and employers. I also think that maternity breaks in research should be taken into account when evaluating a woman’s career.

When you decided to enter the Reaxys PhD Prize, did you feel supported by your supervisor and other people in your PhD program?

Absolutely. In fact, it was my supervisor who encouraged me to submit my research to the Reaxys PhD Prize.

Why is the Reaxys PhD Prize important to you?

Any award or recognition is useful for a successful scientific career. To grow professionally, we must show investigative merit. Being a finalist of the Reaxys PhD Prize was one of these achievements for me, an opportunity to get recognition for the quality of my work.

Professor del Campo, thank you for your time.